Sausage and Fennel Pasta

Fennel is something I discovered that I liked as an adult, and now I can’t get enough of it! This is a great vehicle for it, via Cooking for Jeffrey.

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  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped fennel (1 large bulb)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/4 lbs sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, crushed with mortar and pestle (or in a spice grinder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb rigatoni, such as De Cecco
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, divided
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
  2. Add the sausage and cook for 7-8 minutes, crumbling it with a fork, until nicely browned.
  3. Add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper and cook for one minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and add the heavy cream, half-and-half, and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tablespoons salt, and cook the rigatoni according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta.
  5. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan.
  6. Serve hot in shallow bowls with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan on the side.
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